democrats Archives - Florida Politics

Former Vice President Joe Biden endorses Sean Shaw

The statewide race for the open Attorney General post is attracting national involvement.

Calling state Rep. Sean Shaw a “fighter with a proven track record of standing up for the little guy,” former Vice President Joe Biden is throwing his political weight behind Florida’s Democratic option for Attorney General.

In an endorsement announced on Tuesday, the former two-term Vice President said, “Sean Shaw will be the kind of Attorney General that the state of Florida desperately needs.”

Shaw responded, likening himself to the former Veep.

“Much like Vice President Biden did during his time in the White House, I plan to give issues surrounding common-sense gun reform and tackling sexual assault, the focus, and attention that they deserve,” Shaw said. “The grace with which Vice President Biden has carried himself, through both triumph and tragedy, is a lesson in the resilience of the human spirit.”

This isn’t Biden’s first wade into races down the ballot. He has offered support for candidates running in special elections during the past two years, even going as far as recording robocalls to go out ahead of February’s House District 72 race, which saw Democrat Margaret Good secure an upset victory.

Shaw faces former Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody, a Republican who has long carried support from term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi. Moody faced a brutal primary challenge from Frank White, which exhausted much of her campaign funds. Currently, Shaw leads in the money chase with $1.2 million on hand, while Moody’s close behind at $870,000 — although her weekly hauls have recently topped Shaw’s.

Chris King to teachers’ union: Help is on the way for public education

“Help is on the way,” Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Chris King vowed to a cheering Florida teachers union convention in Orlando Friday afternoon.

Before what in many ways was a home court crowd – the Florida Education Association has long backed Democrats and has endorsed the ticket led by gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum – King only briefly laid out the Democrat’s education plan, specifically to increase spending in public schools, particularly on teachers’ salaries, and to reemphasize teachers and deemphasize testing.

Instead, as King stood in Friday for Gillum at the Florida Education Association’s Annual Delegate Assembly at the Rosen Centre hotel, he sought to connect Gillum’s story with their own, seeking to energize and inspire the teachers and other employees in public schools to turn out for the Democratic ticket. He spoke of how public school teachers made a difference for Gillum, and how he was preparing to finish that circle.

“If there is anything about Andrew and I, we believe in public education. We are committed to public education,” King said. “We believe the future of economy is woven with the strength and vitality of our public schools. And at our best we value our teachers by paying them what they are worth, by creating a culture that seeks to end this high-stakes testing, by stopping this constant, divestment of resources into for-profit schools.”

King charged that under 20 years of Republican leadership in Tallahassee, “90 percent of the discussion and innovation, supposedly, has been about everything but public education,” and then vowed, “That stops with Andrew Gillum. That stops with Chris King.”

That played well with the 800-900 FEA delegates in the room, but King knows that outside of the teachers union, some of the Democratic ticket’s plans make some voters nervous about tax increases that are unlikley to be approved, and nervous about charter schools and private education scholarships that their families might be using.

Addressing reporters after his FEA speech, King stressed that Gillum’s $1 billion investment in public education proposal, while currently tied to his proposed $1 billion increase in the tax rate for big corporations, could wind up coming about through other means, including re-allocating money from savings King said they expect from prison and criminal justice reforms.

He also stressed that Gillum is not talking about withdrawing money for such popular private school programs as the McKay Scholarships, at least not initially; but in stopping the growth,  to reserve money for public education.

“The broader consensus is public education needs greater investment, in public schools,” King said. “I think we are going to see, and I’m a big believer, that we are going to win this election and next year in session there is going to be consensus around more investment in public eduation, particularly around teacher salaries and support-staff salaries, and investments in troubled or distressed public schools. I think there is growing consensus there.”

Val Demings blasts Darryl Sheppard as ‘totally unfit’ in Orange County Sheriff campaign

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Thursday blasted Orange County Sheriff candidate Darryl Sheppard for including her picture in campaign materials, saying she has told him to stop using it and wouldn’t back him for dog catcher, “for fear the canines would lodge complaints.”

“He is TOTALLY unfit for the position he seeks, without even mentioning his criminal record,” Demings, a former Orlando Police Chief declared in a Facebook post Thursday morning. “Perhaps he should learn how to OBEY the law become (sic) he TRIES to enforce the law.

Sheppard’s campaign Facebook page includes campaign pictures of him posing with Demings, with Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King, and with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. There also is an upload of what appears to be a campaign leaflet or mailer showing those pictures.

Nelson has endorsed Orlando Police Chief John Mina in the race.

Sheppard was not available Thursday to discuss Demings’ complaint, though a call to his campaign phone led Joe Kilgore to answer and defend the use of the pictures. Kilgore said the materials do not state anything about endorsements and the politicians in the pictures are public figures so that their images are available for public use.

Sheppard presents a unique situation for Orange County Democrats. Sheppard has no background in law enforcement, except for an arrest record of his own. Yet he got on the Nov. 6 ballot as the Democrats’ nominee for Orange County Sheriff because no one else ran for the nomination. Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge has said the party is not backing him.

The race also features retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief JoseJoeLopez. Both Mina and Lopez are former Republicans who switched their voter registration to the Democratic Party in 2017 but did so too late to qualify for the 2018 ballot as Democrats. So they’re both running as independents.

There are no Republicans in the race.

Demings is married to the current Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

She responded to Sheppard’s posts of her picture by declaring on her personal Facebook account, “Orange County Sheriff Candidate Darryl Sheppard has decided to use my image in his campaign literature. My campaign reached out to him for the second time and respectfully asked him not to use my image to infer my support for his campaign. Since he refused, I feel compelled to make the following statement:”

And then she used the dog catcher line.

And then she added, “For the record, I am not supporting a candidate in this race.”

Sheppard, as the Democrats’ official nominee, may have an advantage among uninformed voters, as Democrats dominate voter registration in Orange County.

He also has posted unspecified poll results on his campaign’s Facebook page claiming he is leading the race. But then his Facebook page also includes a clearly fake post of a tweet from President Donald Trump in support of Lopez and Mina.

The other two campaigns largely have been trying to ignore him, and Mina’s campaign indicated it intended to continue to do so.

Lopez let loose Thursday.

“Finally Sheppard is being exposed as who he really is. The voters of Orange County are smart. Before you can hold anybody accountable you gotta start with yourself: hold yourself accountable first,” Lopez said.

Second lawsuit filed seeking to extend voter registration

A second lawsuit has been filed seeking to force Florida authorities to extend the voter registration deadline further in counties being hit by Hurricane Michael, this time brought by a coalition of groups.

Common Cause Florida, New Florida Majority Education Fund and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund filed suit in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee Wednesday seeking a federal injunction ordering Florida to allow voter registration to continue in the 35 counties in the disaster declaration to continue until Oct. 16.

The Florida Democratic Party filed a similiar suit on Tuesday.

On Monday, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered county Supervisors of Elections in the 35 counties who chose to close their offices on Tuesday to extend voter registration for the day they reopen, whenver that might be.

The Common Cause suit, against Detzner, also asks the court to expand the voter registration deadline extension to the entire state.

Tuesday was the deadline for voter registration for the Nov. 6 election.

As with the Democrats’ lawsuit, the new complaint, filed by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, argues that the state’s one-day extension is inadequate and did not amount to a “reasonable effort to accomodate the needs of its voting citizens and provide additional time for them to register to vote or update their registration information in advanc of the November eletion.”

“At the same time,” the suit states, “users reported experiencing problems with Flordia’s Online Voter Registration system on Oct. 8 and 9, 2018, compounding the burden on the ability of Floridians to register to vote in the face of the approaching hurricane.”

The Common Cause action contends that the last couple of days before the close of voter registration are typically the most busy time for voter registrations.

The suit argues that the state’s refusal to extend the voter registration deadline in light of the pending disaster violates the 14th Amendment and that, without relief, tens of thousands of eligible Floridians will not be allowed to register and vote in November’s mid-term election.

On Tuesday, Republican Party of Florida chair Blaise Ingoglia accused the Democrats of “reprehensible” behavior, playing politics, at a time when people were focused on protecting lives.

New Democratic ad hits Rick Scott on education cuts

A new television commercial being launched Thursday by the Democrats’ Senate Majority Political Action Committee is attacking Republican Gov. Rick Scott over the education cuts he oversaw early in his administration, bringing the cuts back for consideration in Florida’s U.S. Senate race.

The new commercial, “Cuts,” focuses on the $1.3 billion that Florida cut from the state’s education budget during the first two years of Scott’s administration, as he and the Florida Legislature focused on budget and tax cuts as their strategy to address the Great Recession still miring Florida in 2011-’12.

The commercial takes aim at some of the ramifications of those cuts, which have since been restored as Florida increased education funding gradually, now topping 2010 levels.

Scott is trying to oust Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the Nov. 6 election.

““He promised us…” a narrator begins. It then quotes an Scott declaring, “Zero cuts out of state general revenue for education.”

“But it wasn’t true,” the narrator responds. The commercial then goes to clips of students, schools and teachers as the narrator reminds viewers of the $1.3 billion in education cuts and the tax cuts “to corporations”, and then goes into detail:

“Scott cut $20 million from Pre-k. Slashed Bright Futures scholarships. And over a thousand teaching jobs…gone. Today Florida’s schools have fallen to 40th in the nation.”

On Tuesday Scott is focusing on preparations for Hurricane Michael, and his campaign responded to the new ad simply by saying so: “The Governor has suspended campaign events for the coming days and Governor Scott’s first responsibility is to keep the people of Florida safe”

Senate Majority PAC is leading a national drive by Democratic groups to back Nelson in the election. Through late September the committee had spent more than $6.5 million on a half-dozen commercials so far, starting last spring.

“Rick Scott cut over a billion dollars from Florida’s schools while he gave tax cuts to his fellow millionaires; leaving Florida families to suffer while the wealthy continued to line their pockets,” Hannah Hurley, spokesperson for SMP, stated in a news release. “Thanks to Rick Scott’s cuts, Florida schools don’t have air conditioning, teachers don’t have jobs and young Floridians are left without critical scholarships for college, but Rick Scott does not care. Rick Scott has demonstrated time and time again that he only looks out for the wealthy. At the end of the day he is just another shady millionaire that Floridians cannot trust.”

Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida backs Joe Lopez for Orange sheriff

The Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida has endorsed retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Jose “Joe” Lopez for Orange County Sheriff, his campaign announced.

The endorsement was offered Lopez for his support of the Hispanic community, his campaign stated in a news release.

Although Lopez is registered as a Democrat, he is running as an independent and is not the Democrat on the Nov. 6 ballot for sheriff. That would be businessman Darryl Sheppard. They also face Orlando Police Chief John Mina, the front-runner, who also is a registered Democrat running as an independent candidate. Both Lopez and Mina changed their party status in late 2017, too late to qualify for the 2018 election as Democrats.

“Throughout the campaign, what I’m hearing is the voters want change,” Lopez stated in the release. “They want a sheriff who will build bridges and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community. To the voters of Orange County – I hear you loud and clear.”

This is the second recent endorsement Lopez has announced from a Hispanic group, following the Hispanic Civil Alliance of Central Florida, which announced its support last week.

As I-4 mayors endorse him, Andrew Gillum pledges interest in mass transit

The three mayors of major Interstate 4 cities came together in Orlando Thursday to endorse Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s bid for Governor because they’re all Democrats, they’re all mayors, and they all want to see more investment in mass transit.

As Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman gathered with Gillum and his running mate Chris King beneath the seemingly never-ending I-4 construction in downtown Orlando, Gillum pledged he, too, wants what those three mayors have pushed for, to see trains running between their cities.

It’s an issue that unites Dyer, Buckhorn and Kriseman: a train that does not unite their cities.  Gov. Rick Scott canceled the planned Orlando-to-Tampa Bay high-speed rail system in his first year in office when he turned down $2 billion in federal stimulus funding.

Gillum got on board.

“They know as well as I do that when Barack Obama tried to send us more than $2 billion for high-speed rail, what did our current governor say? He said no. Can you imagine the number of people who could have gone to work, the jobs that could have been created across the I-4 corridor?” Gillum said. “We, instead of building more lane miles, could have moved thousands of people a day across the I-4 corridor to go to work, to play, to see friends, and to grow the economy of the central part of Florida.

“It’s my belief we deserve a governor who is going to act in the interest of all the people in the state of Florida, and it would have been in the best interest of the people of our state to build high-speed rail in this corridor,” Gillum said.

The press conference led the mayors to discuss the reasons they believe mayors would make good governors, notably that they work close to the citizens, that, as Kriseman suggested, they have no place to hide, and that they are, virtually by job description, problem solvers, and that they are more likely to collaborate and fight for local control. They also shared the basic Democratic tenants on such things as gun law reform, LGBTQ equality measures, Medicaid expansion, and dramatically increased spending in public education, as well as their own records of business development.

As election politics has increasingly divided Americans among several lines, not the least of which being between city people and those of small towns and rural areas, Buckhorn stated the case for cities like Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Orlando leading the state’s future, with progressive residents and progressive visions.

“It’s the cities of Florida that have pulled this state out of the recession,” Buckhorn said. “It’s the cities where the jobs are being created, where entrepreneurs are going, where high-tech is growing and being funded, where young people are flocking. It is the cities of Florida that are making a difference in this state. And what matters to us is we have a partner in the Governor’s office.”

They also took a couple of quick shots at Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who Kriseman accused of showing no interest in mass transit.

“The big city mayors all agree that the more connected we all are, the stronger we all are,” Kriseman said. “Now Ron DeSantis has a different view. He said he is skeptical of state investment in mass transit, and that we need to work on expanding our roadways. That’s not exactly visionary, and that’s not what Florida needs.

The press conference outside of Orlando’s Amway Center was occasionally disrupted by Republican protesters shouting anti-Gillum chants and once by Orlando-area conservative activist Jacob Engels shouting at Gillum about one of his former staffer’s offensive remarks. Kriseman, Buckhorn, Dyer, and Gillum took turns both welcoming the protesters and suggesting they were part of a problem of divisive politics that Democrats seek to overcome.

“The other side is mastering in politics of division, of hatred, of derisiveness, and what we are majoring in is politics of the future, politics of the people, politics that put the regular working-day people ahead of everybody else,” Gillum said. “Not the high-paid interests, not the special interests, not even paid protesters.”

Andrew Gillum’s team defends tax plan as overdue investment in economy

Blasting Republican claims that Andrew Gillum‘s tax plan is a form of socialism, Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Chris King and other members of the gubernatorial nominee’s team on Thursday defended an increase in corporate taxes as an overdue investment in education and Florida’s economy.

King, Greenbank CEO Ken LaRoe and Orlando entrepreneur Harold Mills charged that the Republicans’ efforts to continuously cut taxes has led to a routine lack of investment in Florida’s schools and other services that have left the state uncompetitive for top companies and high-paying, high-skill jobs.

The trio responded to criticism, showing up in television commercials, of Gillum’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate to generate an additional $1 billion in tax revenue, which he said he wants to invest in Florida’s public schools. Gillum’s plan calls for an increase in the tax rate on large corporations to 7.75 percent. He contends that few of them are paying taxes now, and those that do pay only pay 5.5 percent.

On Thursday, the Democrats rankled at Republican charges, led by Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, that Gillum is pushing a form of socialism.

“Our economic plan, it was charged by some Republicans and DeSantis, is just all about socialism. That could not be further from the truth. That is really an offensive attack for people who have come from countries who have faced the pain and challenges and terrorism of terrorist regimes. That’s not what we’re doing,” King said.

“I’m an entrepreneur. I believe I’m the only one on the ticket. … I believe in business. Mayor Gillum believes in business.  He is in the fastest growing economy in the state of Florida for business [in Tallahassee]. We have two guys who believe in business but who want to make sure that everybody has got a fair shake at pursuing their dreams. And so the type of growth we want to see is real investment in public education.”

LaRoe said the issue for him is that Florida needs to make investments in the economy. He charged that Amazon passed on a chance to open its second headquarters in Florida, and other major businesses are passing over the state, “because our school systems are so bad.”

LaRoe said that as a bank CEO he would welcome the corporate tax increase at his business, which he said would amount to a tiny hit on his bank’s profits.

“To pay a tiny little bit in extra taxes to make sure our school system is at least at parity with the rest of the country, to me, is a very, very smart sacrifice to make,” he said.

Mills argued that the tax plan would affect only Florida’s biggest businesses and that 98 percent of Florida’s other businesses, including virtually all small businesses, would not see any tax increase. Like LaRoe and King, he argued that Florida needs to invest the money to be more competitive for high-paying jobs.

“The irony of it is the number one priority for the Florida Chamber of Commerce … is how do we build the workforce of the future? Andrew Gillum and Chris King agree with that. They agree with the Chamber, they agree with business,” Mills said. “They are the only ones, Andrew Gillum and Chris King are the only ones that have an actual plan that enables us to make massive investments in education.”

Outside spending tops $25 million in Florida’s U.S. Senate contest

Outside spending has exceeded $25 million already in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, with Democratic groups behind U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson outspending Republican groups behind Gov. Rick Scott by a margin of three dollars to two so far.

According to the latest outside expenditure reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission, covering campaign expenses running through last Friday, almost all the outside money coming to Scott’s aid is from the super political action committee he set up to help his election, the New Republican PAC. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pitched in some last spring, and another five groups have contributed small amounts, mainly for ground-game support.

It’s a different picture on the Democratic side, where three national PACs already have spent well into seven figures, a union PAC is approaching $1 million, and four other PACs are well into six figures, either campaigning for Nelson’s re-election or in opposing a U.S. Senate quest by Scott.

The result: so far outside groups have spent $15.2 million on Nelson’s side, and $10.3 million on Scott’s side.

Leading the charge so far for Nelson’s re-election is the Senate Majority PAC, controlled by the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leadership. They want Nelson back, and through last Friday the PAC had spent $6.5 million on various media buys, mainly television. Their TV commercials have been on Florida airwaves since last spring, and on Tuesday the group announced its latest spot.

The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, founded by a couple of President Barack Obama‘s former advisors, has spent $4.3 million, mainly on digital advertising, much of that in coordination with Senate Majority PAC efforts. Majority Forward, a super PAC affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, has spent $1.8 million, mainly on television advertising. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees PAC has spent $972,000 on a variety of items including a TV commercial, canvassing, and mailers.

Four other Democratic PACSs, For Our Future, Win Justice, United We Can, and the Service Employees International Union’s SEIU COPE each has spent between a quarter million dollars and a half-million on such things as ground-game staff, canvassing and mailers. Five other groups have each provided less than $100,000 apiece for similar efforts.

On Scott’s side, the New Republican PAC, which he left before declaring his candidacy, has spent $9.4 million on media placement, mainly television commercials. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $750,000 on media, though that all was spent in April, timed with the kick-off of Scott’s campaign. Three groups associated with Americans For Prosperity have reported a combined $120,000 in expenses, almost entirely for staffing a ground-game in Florida. Four other groups have provided less than $100,000.

If it looks like most of the outside spending is going into attacks, that is true.

The Republican PACs’ FEC filings indicate that more than $9.9 million of the $10.4 million they’ve spent on Florida’s U.S. Senate race was explicitly spent to oppose Nelson.

The Democratic PACs indicate that $6 million of the money $15.3 million they’ve spent was explicitly spent to oppose Scott.

That’s a total of nearly $16 million in attack ads and other opposition activity.

Of the positive advertising and activities, the Democrats groups have reported $9.2 million in expenses to support Nelson, while Republican groups have reported only $414,000 in support of Scott. Most of the pro-Scott spending was done by the U.S. Chamber, with some by Club for Growth and the Susan B. Anthony List. That’s a total of $9.6 million in positive ads and related support activity.

Florida Conservation Voters announce backing of Anna Eskamani, Geraldine Thompson

Florida Conservation Voters announced that it is backing two Democrats in key Florida House elections in Orange County: former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson in House District 44 and Anna Eskamani in House District 47.

“Orlando residents are fortunate to have two strong women leaders ready to serve in the Florida Legislature on day one,” Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign.

”Geraldine Thompson is a tireless leader and a respected voice when it comes to defending Florida’s drinking water and public parks. And Anna Eskamani is the fierce advocate Orlando needs to protect our rivers, lakes, and remarkable natural beauty,” Moncrief added. “They understand the importance of our environment to our quality of life and economy. FCV looks forward to working with both Geraldine and Anna in Tallahassee.”

Thompson is challenging Republican incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski in HD 44, covering southwest Orange County. Eskamani and Republican nominee Stockton Reeves are competing for an open seat for HD 47, representing much of north and central Orange County.

Thompson was on the Florida Conservation Voters’ Board of Directors until earlier this year, but did not have a vote on her own endorsement.